“The precision and power in his kicks has changed games in the NRL, in America this would allow the team to win field position and overall help the team win the game.
“Field position and pinpoint accuracy punting is changing the landscape in college and NFL, and Matt Burton would certainly continue this trend.”
The Herald crunched the numbers to compare Burton’s boot, which NSW will be calling on in game two of the State of Origin series on Sunday night, to some of the biggest kickers in the NFL and AFL.
According to Champion Data, the longest kick of this AFL season belongs to GWS Giants forward Harry Himmelberg, who launched a 70.7m torpedo against West Coast in round 10.
Burton’s kick against the Cowboys, which was launched in the pouring rain in Townsville, landed just shy of that mark but stayed in the air for approximately half a second longer.
He also put up a bomb in the same game that hung in the air for a whopping 5.8 seconds, bamboozling Cowboys winger Kyle Feldt.
Aussie punter for the Seattle Seahawks, Michael Dickson, has one of the biggest legs in the NFL.
His longest kick of the season was measured at 68 yards (62.2 metres), although the NFL measure kicking distance from the line of scrimmage – and not where the punter makes contact with the ball.
The estimated distance of Dickson’s monster kick against the LA Rams is around 77 metres from foot to where it landed.
Burton’s kick against the Cowboys was measured at just over 70 metres, however according to Nathan Chapman from Prokick Australia – the organisation that helped transition Dickson from AFL player to college and NFL footballer – the Steeden is more difficult to kick further.
Cahill backed up Chapman’s claims, admitting that a well-timed kick of a NFL ball has the potential to go further than a rugby league ball.
“To drive a rugby ball that is a little bit lighter and rounder is harder than the American ball,” Cahill said. “If you can hit a nice tight spiral with an American football, because it has a little more weight to it, the ball actually compresses off the foot more than some of the rugby balls.
“The leather that covers the bladder of the NFL or college ball, it’s firm enough that when you hit it in the sweet spot, it’s going to really compress deeply and pop off.
“If you make perfect contact on an American ball it’s going to compress and drop really far, probably with less effort than an Aussie Rules or rugby ball would.”
So, what is the key to Burton’s monster torpedoes?
One of the first Australians to make the leap from Aussie Rules to the NFL, former Geelong Cats superboot Ben Graham, says 22-year-old Burton has already “mastered” the ability to generate power after watching a package of his best kicks this year.
“I love the fact he’s a left-footer too,” Graham said. “It reminded of me when I first went to the States, and punt returners didn’t really understand the way the ball fell out of the sky [from left footers]. He’s got an advantage there.
“I see in a lot of his highlights [the fullbacks] are not fielding his kicks because it’s falling out of the sky the opposite way to what it normally would. But he’s got a great technique. He gets it off in a couple of steps, so he’s powerful. He’s got a beautiful straight leg. He points his toe. He does hold it in an interesting way, almost on the top and making contact with the ball a little lower, which I found interesting.
“I do remember when I played AFL thinking that one day rugby league will capitalise on an AFL-type kicking game. I think it was a part of the game they didn’t quite take advantage of, and he’s obviously mastered it.”
Burton’s former Panthers teammate Dylan Edwards had to stand under a spiralling torpedo in a game earlier this year, and concedes the Blues centre might have a bigger boot than McRobert.
“I’m going to be honest, I think Burto would have him covered,” Edwards said. “He hits them further than anyone I have ever played against. You have to give yourself an extra 20 metres. And the way he gets them to move around in the air is something I’ve never faced before. I don’t know how he does it.
“That was a monster kick [in round 13]. I was set back there for it, but it moved in a way I didn’t expect it to move. He makes it so tough when he hits them well.”
Goalkicking ace Daryl Halligan, who works with Burton, argues the key to his kicking is simple – and rates him a chance of becoming as good a goalkicker as Nathan Cleary one day.
“His torpedo he put up the other day probably went 15 metres higher than what we’ve seen before,” Halligan said. “I don’t think he tries to kick the ball too hard, sometimes guys try too hard in that respect. He doesn’t need to. He’s got great timing and it works for him.”
Burton is on a contract with the Bulldogs worth about $500,000 a season. While he has the attributes to give American football a crack, Chapman says that it is unrealistic to expect a professional league player to make the transition.
Graham said Burton, if he wanted, should consider a career as an American football punter, but only later in life.
“The reality is, a young bloke from the country will have to walk away from half a million dollars,” Chapman said.
“Then he needs to train hard for seven or eight months, just to be in the window to potentially be a starter in a job where there are only 32 jobs in the world, where only two or three positions change each year. NFL teams will look at you and know you’ve never played before, or they could get someone from college with experience, with the same leg.
“My advice is you never walk away from guaranteed money. Yes, we can send you to college, but you don’t get paid. Yes, you get experience and it’s all paid for, but you don’t get paid. That’s the reality of it. He either has to not get paid or go into something that’s not guaranteed when he can do what he does and earn a minimum of half a million dollars a year. And even if you go from professional to professional, you could sign for $2m today and in a week you could have three bad training sessions and they don’t owe you a cent.”
Watch the State of Origin exclusively live and free on Channel 9 and 9Now.
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